Name: Leigh Archer
Age: Old enough to handle most of what comes my way.
Where are you from: South Africa
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I was lucky enough to grow up in South Africa so spent much of my childhood – when I wasn’t in a classroom – exploring nature reserves, hiking, climbing mountains and playing on the beach. The children in my family have grown up in a similar way and my partner is involved in wildlife conservation. I was originally trained as a journalist and have specialized in communications in one form or another most of my life.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Until quite recently I’d written about serious matters, even the ugly side of life so writing my first romance and having it published by Tirgearr Publishing has been an uplifting experience. The Alpha Match was thrilling to write and I’m so pleased that Tirgearr Publishing decided that the story was a ticket for their readers to experience romantic, pioneering Africa.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have always been a storyteller. Some of my earliest memories are of me telling stories to others and I was lucky enough to have parents who indulged my fantasy life. Of course, the time came when I had to make a living in the real world and so my love of storytelling translated into journalism. But I always longed to lose myself again in the limitless world of fiction.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I had a small article published in a local newspaper while I was studying journalism – it was my first real exposure as a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Love in all its many forms is what really gets us up in the morning. I wanted to write about it. Living in South Africa is a thrilling experience: it’s ancient, new, colourful, vibrant. It can be a dangerous and scary place to live in at times and at others you’re overwhelmed with wonder. I couldn’t think of a better place to set my team of conservationists and watch them as they find themselves, and love.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve been told my writing is ‘visual’ and I suppose that comes from wanting to take my reader (and as a child whoever was listening to my verbal stories) along with me. A story is always a journey and what is a journey without travelling companions? Those who read my stories are my travelling companions and in order to make it a ‘real’ experience for them, I write so that they can smell what I smell, see what I’m seeing and feel what I feel.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
In a group of African wild dogs, usually there is only one mating pair. Females tend to leave their natal group when they come of age and there are several males that remain as helpers. The Alpha Match is the love story of a mating pair of the human kind.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Africa’s wild spaces are some of the few places on earth where you can experience the world the way it was a hundred years ago. But its wild places are under threat from human habitation and its wonderful animals are faced increasing with extinction. I hope my readers see its beauty and all that can be lost as they look at Africa through the eyes of characters who are in love – with each other and with the beautiful and irreplaceable world around them.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Most of it. I think coming from a communications background stories have to be realistic for me so the bones of my story are based in fact. But I also wanted to capture the magical quality of a once-in-a-lifetime passion between wonderful characters.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’ve met several conservationists who were not only capable of taking care of themselves in the bush, but could set your heart pounding.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Some of the first romances I read were written by Victoria Holt and Kathleen Woodiwiss. The Thorn Birds was a revelation. Those are the sort of books that got me hooked.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons which has been called “a Russian Thorn Birds.” I recently posted a list of the best of my recent reads on my blog Leigh Archer best romance reads.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’ve just finished the second in the Untamed Safari Series: Moonflower which is the story of one of the character you first meet in The Alpha Match. And I’ve begun the third in the series involving Adrian, the wildlife photographer and documentary maker, also first introduced in The Alpha Match. It’s been wonderful to write those characters again.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I joined a writers’ group many years ago and although the group has changed over time, I’ve made some good friends and had solid advice and support from them.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I think it is a healthy goal to work towards. I’ve always approached writing in quite a professional way – having made my living in communications. I think if I hadn’t I might not have pushed myself and worked to get published. But writing means different things to different people. I do believe whether reader of writer you should always follow your heart.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think I might have made the story a little longer – I really didn’t want to say good-bye to some of the characters I’d got to know so well.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
There was no television in South Africa when I was a very young child so books were my window on the world. In South Africa we have a tradition of ‘stoep stories’ or porch stories. This is when everyone gets comfy on the porch and individuals informally recount oral stories to friends and family, perhaps after a meal or on a lazy afternoon. It awakened a great love of storytelling but also gave me a feel for the rhythm of words, the building of tension and the art of delivering a great punchline.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The third story in the Untamed Safari Series is about award-winning wildlife filmmaker, Adrian, who first appeared in The Alpha Match. He has been tasked with making a documentary about a huge multi-purpose development that is being built close to sensitive wetlands. Life gets a whole lot more complicated when he begins to develop an inconvenient attraction to Dani, who has been tasked with heading the corporation behind the new development after her father’s sudden disappearance from the corporate world. Adrian is hell-bent on protecting the sensitive wetlands and its wildlife while Dani has everything to prove to her father’s board of directors.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Time. Although I’d never put myself on the same bookshelf as Shakespeare, I’ve always had the impression that he felt the restrictions of time as the great enemy of writers. And it’s certainly true for busy mothers the world over. I wish with all my heart that I had more time to set down all the characters and stories that play peek-a-boo in my head.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I admire writers who bravely cross genres. Stories are about our life experiences and that can be wonder and love at one moment, or a scary or heartbreaking event at another – which means each of our lives, if we wrote about them, would continuously cross genres. J.K. Rowling has done it, Judy Blume, Nathanial Hawthorne, C.S. Lewis, Maya Angelou, Joan Didion, to name a few.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I’ve explored my own country quite extensively – and South Africa really is a world in one country: we have high-rise cities, forests and woodlands, beaches, deserts and savannah plains. I’ve tried to capture in my novels the romanticism of the African bush which can be a simple tent that trembles with the base-notes of roaring lions or the extreme luxury of a bush lodge that caters to every possible whim of even the most discerning traveler. I’ve also spent time in the UK and some other places on the globe and there always seems to be something I find irresistible about each place and culture.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Tirgearr Publishing’s talented designers.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Having to come up for air after a particularly rewarding writing session and deal with the realities of life.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
For The Alpha Match I’d always heard interesting stories about African wild dogs – also called painted dogs – but I’d never fully understood what wonderful creatures they are, or just how threatened their species is.
In Moonflower I learned about the various uses of flowers and their medicinal properties, as well as the folklore surrounding certain plants.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Writing makes you a writer but it is practice that makes you a decent one.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Africa is a place of heroes, great beauty, excitement and adventure. Not everyone has the opportunity to hop on a plane and pop over for a visit. So I hope my stories are a ticket for readers to come along on a journey with me and, hopefully, fall in love with some wonderful characters who play out their passions in one of the most romantic places on earth.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes! It was Jock of the Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. My father pointed it out to me in our local library. I absolutely adored the story and it’s still my favourite book of all time.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I’m a huge fan of British comedy. South African humour has a similar self-deprecating subtly. Cruelty in all its many, many forms makes me cry. But I’ve also cried with joy on occasion when a human being goes out of their way to do something to help another because they are moved by compassion.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Any activity that takes me outside. I hike and spend far more time than I should working as an animal rescue and rehabilitation volunteer.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’d be off on an adventure. If I had to make a living out of that I suppose I’d be a game ranger, field guide or expedition leader.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?